On Wednesday, March 22, Russian-Ukrainian joint venture has signed a deal with NATO for the delivery of large-sized Antonov cargo aircraft that will ferry troops and heavy equipment to troublespots around the world, according to MosNews.

The ceremony for the accord will take place on Thursday, March 23, in the east German town of Leipzig. Under the contract NATO has received access to six Antonov-148 Ruslan aircraft.

“We are very happy with the deal. This gives us assured access to outsized cargo lift,” Bruneau Cantin, head of logistics at NATO’s International Staff in Brussels, said, quoted by the Reuters agency. “We have no security concerns. This will be subject to the usual international standards for commercial agreements of this kind,” he added, asked whether NATO had qualms about relying on former Cold War foes for key strategic equipment.

Cantin declined to give financial details of the agreement between 16 countries and Ruslan Salis, a German unit of Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Group. Ukraine’s Antonov Design Bureau, designer of the Antonov-124s, is also involved in the accord, he said.

The 16 countries that will benefit from the agreement are: Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, France, Britain, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and non-NATO Sweden and Finland.

Cantin said nations would be able to decide whether they used the planes for NATO, European Union or national missions.

Two of the Antonovs will be based in Leipzig, available at three days’ notice. Four will be based in either Ukraine or Russia and will be ready within 6-9 days.

The United States has more than 200 strategic lift aircraft but among its European allies only Britain, with four leased Boeing C-17s, has a similar capability.

Most European countries have static or falling defense budgets and have been wondering for years how to boost their collective airlift capability.

Britain has urged European partners to come up with ideas for increasing their lift capacity before a NATO summit in October, exploring commercial leasing, chartering or other options.